If like the ill-fated Family Feud, they surveyed 100 people to name eight things that are highly addictive, the possible result might be – Ice, Heroin, Cocaine, Cigarettes, Fat, Sugar, Mobile Phones and Poker Machines. However, it’s unlikely the pokies would come in as the number one selection, given the climate of denial that currently exists in the community.
It’s a climate largely fostered and fiercely defended by vested interests – the clubs and the pubs and the various State Governments who suck billions every year from the wretched machines. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald pokie profits in NSW “will grow by 12 per cent over the next four years to reach $7 billion per year by 2021…”
An entrenched food chain has been established which means any attempt to curtail the electronic bandits is met with cries of horror and disadvantage. It’s no secret that many of the clubs and mega clubs in NSW use part of their obscene pokie profits to subsidise various community groups. Cut our gambling profits the clubs protest and we will no longer be able to fund these groups. This is despite the fact that many of the so called mega clubs are undertaking massive building projects and amalgamations with smaller clubs, creating suburban Las Vegas style casinos.
Whilst token harm minimisation programs are in place, every week there’s a new story about how somebody has tragically taken their life or been financially ruined after pouring thousands through the machines. Maybe it’s time for some truly radical solutions to make pokies about as popular as gonorrhoea in a contest which can only be described as man (and woman of course) versus machine.
When Elon Musk put out a poster which read “IN THE END THE MACHINES WILL WIN”, he was warning of the dangers of artificial intelligence but he may as well have been referring to the pokies. Today’s ultra seductive, brightly illuminated, high-tech poker machines are a classic form of mind control, enslaving thousands of players every day – stealing not only your money but many would say your soul as well.
So what can be done to resist? Not to make light of the current Kings Cross safe injecting room, I’m suggesting a series of similar facilities all built within walking distance of the NSW mega clubs and suburban beer barns. Here pokie addicts could play a number of machines, not for money but simply for the enjoyment of watching the symbols spin.
Whenever a winning combination came up they would hear a really unpleasant high pitched squeal whilst a losing sequence would maintain an ambient soundtrack of warm and reassuring therapeutic sounds. At the end of their session their inevitable ‘paper’ losses would be tallied and they would be rewarded with a $20 grocery voucher donated by Woolies, who incidentally own about 12,000 poker machines nation wide.
The ‘safe gambling’ rooms would also feature a facility whereby patrons could unleash their anxiety with an axe (safety glasses provided). The clubs would be required to donate their old redundant machines so habitual losers could bash the crap out of them, spurred on by enthusiastic counsellors screaming “KILL KILL KILL!”
Family Feud may have disappeared from our screens but let’s hope when it comes to the scourge of addiction, pokies are elevated to the number one choice.